Scrolling through my socials last week, I stumbled on the following tweet:
Typically I’d keep scrolling, but for some reason it kinda bugged me and I felt compelled to respond. So I retweeted and added this gif.
The author came at me, calling me braggy, and a friend of mine dm’d me saying that my response was “literally violence”.
I’m going to be candid–2021 was an incredible year for me. Even as I type that, I feel a tad guilty. Somehow with COVID and everything else that’s gone on, we’ve been conditioned to think that we’re supposed to be unhappy. We’re supposed to be depressed and downhearted. And if things ARE going well for us, well, we better just keep that to ourselves because everyone else is suffering miserably.
Well, I think that’s garbage. Empathy for the suffering is one thing, and we should all strive to have more of that. But being miserable because we’re “supposed to be” is a whole different thing. And that was the sentiment I got from the above tweet.
But let me take a step back to a time where I was suffering, when things were looking bleak. Let’s rewind to the end of 2019. My family and I had just moved to Walnut Creek into a rental home that fit our family of six. Prior to that, we had lived in a three bedroom home that was 1,100 square feet. (Note: technically it was a two bedroom because one room didn’t have a closet.) Three of our kids shared a not-so-large room. The best part was that you could vacuum the entire house while keeping the vacuum cord plugged into a single outlet. We were happy but as the kids started getting bigger, our home felt a little tight.
We moved to Walnut Creek in December of 2019 and things were looking up. I had a shorter commute, the kids were going to be in great schools, and eventually, if we kept saving diligently, we’d be able to buy our first home. Walnut Creek is where we planned to raise our family. We had moved a lot during our 12+ years of marriage and we wanted to put down deep roots.
Well, as the great Mike Tyson said, we all have a plan until we get punched in the mouth. And 2020 certainly punched us in the mouth. A few months after the move, COVID hit and lockdowns began. Having just relocated we had very few friends in Walnut Creek and the wonderful schools we’d been so excited about closed their doors. School moved online. Hello Zoom.
Day one wasn’t so bad. My wife set up an obstacle course for the kids, and while the girls quickly lost interest, our son decided to do it 100 times. This kept him busy for about two hours.
I turned one of the bedrooms into a home office. While I worked, my wife made sure our 4th grader and 2nd grader stayed on task while doing preschool for a third kid and taking care of our fourth, an 18 month old.
Each day was a grind. We hoped this temporary situation would quickly pass, but days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. The life we dreamed of had evaporated. There were silver linings along the way, but overall it was really, really hard. Some in our family struggled more than others.
I’m sure many were impacted far more than we were, but that provides little solace when your family is spiraling. During Summer 2020 we kicked around the idea of moving but we still had a year left on our lease and we thought life would normalize soon enough. In October, it became clear there was no end in sight. Local schools signaled that remote school may continue well into the 2021-2022 school year. We hit a new low. I noticed a change in my wife and I knew we had to do something.
In a matter of days we made the decision to move to Southern Utah, largely so our kids could go to school in person. When the December move date came, I felt sad. The life we thought we’d live was coming to an end. But I mostly felt pride. I had felt like a victim for much of the year. Circumstances were running our lives. We had no control. But in that decision to move, we took back control. As silly as this sounds, I felt like a hero. We were taking our lives back.
In contrast, 2021 has been remarkable. The kids have loved their new school. They’ve made friends. They play sports, do gymnastics, act in plays, and do all the things that kids should be doing. They walk to school and play with friends in the street.
There have been other highlights beyond the move. I took a VP of People role at a startup where I work with incredible people. I did an Ironman 70.3 with my brothers, ran my first marathon, and played a lot of pickleball. I watched my children gain confidence as they learned new skills and tackled problems. I spent quality time with friends and loved ones.
It was by no stretch an easy year, and things are far from perfect, but they’re a whole lot better than in 2020. Leaving California was tough, but it was the right decision. We could have stayed but we didn’t. We took control of our lives. We were in a bad situation and we decided to make a change. We acted.
Over the last few months I’ve reflected on this quote from Russell Nelson:
The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly life can change, at times from circumstances beyond our control. However, there are many things we can control. We set our own priorities and determine how we use our energy, time, and means. We decide how we will treat each other. We choose those to whom we will turn for truth and guidance.
2021 has been one of the best years of my life. But maybe it was an awful year for you. Maybe you’re happy to put it all behind you. But what are you going to do in 2022 to make it better? How can you control your circumstances? What do you need to do to take charge?
I don’t want to be callous or flippant. You may have gone through a trial in 2021 that puts my 2020 to shame. You may have lost a loved one. Or lost your job. Or lost your purpose. But as you look ahead to the new year I invite you to ponder this question: Is it possible 2022 could be the best year of my life?
As COVID concerns grow and other challenges only seem to increase, it’s easy to tell ourselves that things are bad and will only get worse. Maybe. But I challenge you to reconsider. Many of us are miserable. We don’t have to be. To quote Nelson again, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
As you enter the new year, I wish peace, joy, and happiness for you and your family. The world needs people who are striving to grow and improve and thrive. The world needs people who choose to act rather than being acted upon. The world needs you. Make 2022 your year.